Just for Today Card
I am a recovered alcoholic, and my recovery started 16 years ago when I got a sponsor who took me through the Twelve Steps of AA. I had tried counsellors, psychiatrists, doctors, will-power, self-help books and parental help; but nothing worked until I did the 12 Steps. I have not drunk in 16 years and my life now has meaning, forward momentum, stability, and satisfaction. When I got my sponsor, Wayne P., the first thing he did was pass on a daily program to me – and the first item on the daily programme was to read a piece of UK AA literature the “Just for Today” card.
The card has 9 short paragraphs focusing on, respectively : not worrying about the past and future, being happy, not forcing things to go my way, exercising my mind, exercising my spirit, being agreeable, planning my day, daily quiet time, and being unafraid. These fit in brilliantly with the AA programme. For example the first paragraph reminds me of how AA suggests newcomers try to stay sober one day at a time. The second one – on happiness – actually came from Abraham Lincoln; but it resonates with the Big Book: “God wants us to be happy, joyous and free” and “we made our own misery”; and also “It may seem incredible that these men are to become happy, respected, and useful once more… since these things have happened among us, they can happen with you. Should you wish them above all else, and be willing to make use of our experience, we are sure they will come.”
When it comes to the third paragraph and not forcing things to go my own way, the Big Book says that if we use the 12 Steps “We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves”; and for an alcoholic of our type who doesn’t use them: “Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well?”
There is not room in single article to discuss all the paragraphs of such a spiritually-packed card. However I will touch on a couple more before finishing. The paragraphs on “planning my day” and “daily quiet time” fit in excellently with Step 11 described in the Big Book – and meant I was doing some mini-Step 11 as soon as I was using the Just for Today card. And finally, the paragraph on fear is surely – along with the one on happiness – one of the most hopeful for an alcoholic. Fear is one of the “Big 3” which are inventoried in Step 4 (along with resentment and sex conduct). For me personally, fear has always been my least favourite feeling in recovery, and one that in long term sobriety I have had to work hard on. But the results have been wondrous. Every time I read the card’s paragraph on being unafraid it reminds of Step 3 and gives me hope, and reminds me “to enjoy what is beautiful”.
In finishing, it is interesting to note that the text on which the UK AA Just for Today card is based was printed in a 1940s book ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’ By Dale Carnegie. He precedes the text by the following words, which have become true for me thanks to the 12 Steps:
“All I desire is dominion over myself-dominion over my thoughts; dominion over my fears; dominion over my mind and over my spirit. And the wonderful thing is that I know that I can attain this dominion to an astonishing degree, any time I want to, by merely controlling my actions-which in turn control my reactions. So let us remember these words of William James: “Much of what we call Evil … can often be converted into a bracing and tonic good by a simple change of the sufferer’s inner attitude from one of fear to one of fight. Let’s fight for our happiness by following a daily programme of cheerful and constructive thinking. Here is such a programme. It is entitled “Just for Today”. I found this programme so inspiring that I gave away hundreds of copies. It was written thirty-six years ago by the late Sibyl F. Partridge. If you and I follow it, we will eliminate most of our worries.”
I have found this to be true, but it is only with the help of the 12 Steps that I have been able to follow the card; and then the card has enriched my working of the Steps – a virtuous cycle of recovery.